It’s a good time to be a South Carolina basketball fan. The Gamecocks (22-10) are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years and will face No. 10 Marquette (19-12) in opening-round action Friday. Tip-off is at 9:50 p.m. ET.
“I’m so happy right now,” South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I’m ecstatic. I’ve got a great group of kids, and we’ve all worked so hard to build a program here. Our fans, finally getting to this NCAA Tournament – I’m having the time of my life right now.”
The best part about Friday’s game? It will be held in Greenville, South Carolina.
“Powerful moment for our state,” said Martin, who coached at Kansas State from 2006-12 before arriving in Columbia that March. “A year ago, we couldn’t host NCAA events in our state because of the flag that was flying at the capitol. All that happened, and now the first time that an NCAA site is held in our state, we get to play in it. It’s phenomenal. Just unbelievable timing and the way it all worked.”
South Carolina hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2004. For Martin, it feels as though the stars have aligned, especially after winning a school-record 25 games last year and having to settle for the NIT.
“Absolutely,” Martin said. “Absolutely. It’s a powerful moment that’s going to impact a lot of people. A lot of people pay attention to the scoreboard, and that’s awesome – because at the end of the day, it’s about winning that game on Friday. But at the same time, just a powerful moment for our state, something unbelievably positive, united. Our state’s beautiful. People here are incredible. They love each other, they help each other and to be able to represent the University of South Carolina at the first regional ever in the state of South Carolina is a powerful day and a powerful moment for our whole state.”
Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell leads South Carolina in scoring (21.0 points per game), rebounding (7.2) and steals (2.2). Sophomore guard PJ Dozier, meanwhile, is averaging 13.6 points, and senior guard Duane Notice is averaging 10.1.